This is a continuation of events which began in Rules of the Road.
Chapter Four --
JohnyG smiled, looking from Ed to Brian. "So that was your bunch we passed on the road, huh? You guys were just kind of amblin' along, a whole lot of you. You had every lane blocked. How else was I going to get around?"
Ed frowned. "You coulda wrecked somebody, dude."
JohnyG cocked his head to one side. "Think I'd chance trashing my car? I know how to drive."
Brian smiled. The guy showed no evidence of being stoned or drunk, so the passing of the Alna horde on Route 5 had been a stone-cold sober act. Brian didn't know whether that made it even crazier or not...but it just didn't matter now. He put a hand on Ed's shoulder and gave it a fond squeeze. "Aren't you neglecting something important?"
Ed had opened his mouth to say something else to JohnyG; he snapped it closed again, and glanced back to where Missy was still busily loading his store bag. "Oh - right." He sighed, obviously caving to necessity, nodded at the new guys, and went back to assist.
JohnyG watched Ed go, then smiled at Brian. "You're buddy likes causes, huh?" he said, keeping his voice down.
Brian grinned, realizing that that pretty much summed up Ed in a nutshell. "He means well. And he is my buddy." The last was a warning not to pursue the matter, and JohnyG seemed to pick up on it immediately.
He nodded, and instead indicated the guy standing next to him. "This is my buddy, Gary."
Brian smiled at the emphasis, getting that JohnyG was saying he understood about things like friendship, and the occasional need for patience that went along with having them.
Gary stuck his hand out, smiling, and Brian shook with him. "Wild party, huh?" Gary asked. "We were down in the kitchen when someone told us about the big stash up here."
Brian raised his eyebrows. "You didn't get the speech from Jed at the front door on helping yourself to the crop here?"
Gary nodded."Yeah, he said that, but it didn't quite register."
"Not until some chick in the kitchen told us it was weed," JohnyG added.
Brian nodded, recalling that he hadn't really understood, either, until Ed had focused him on it. "You guys are gonna need a bag."
Jeff came up then, toting his own store bag, which seemed about half-full. "Hey, guys."
Brian smiled, grabbed Jeff by his upper arm, and gently pulled him forward. "And this is also my buddy, Jeff."
Jeff smiled at him, and for just a second their eyes locked. But then Jeff looked at the newcomers. "Hey, how ya doin'?"
JohnyG squinted for a second, his eyes going from Brian to Jeff. There was something in the look that startled Brian, as if the other had just seen something that interested him.
But JohnyG just smiled, and stuck out his hand to Jeff. "Great to meet ya."
They shook, and then there was yet another round of handshakes when Jeff was introduced to Gary.
Finally, Jeff turned his eyes back to Brian - eyes that twinkled. "I got enough stash for both of us, okay? We can split it."
Brian grinned. "Great. Thanks."
"We got anything in the Chevy like a bag?" Gary asked, turning to JohnyG. "I thought I saw one of those net bags behind the seat the other day."
"It's still there. I don't think it's tight enough to hold pot, though." The man considered, then snapped his fingers. "Tee-shirt, under the seat. Tie the sleeves and neck closed and you can use the shirt like a bag."
"Back in a few minutes," Gary said, heading for the steps.
JohnyG watched him go, then looked at Brian a second, smiling. "So...where you people from?"
Brian shrugged. "Down near Alna. How 'bout you?"
"Drove over from Albany."
"Pretty good haul," Jeff said, impressed. "How's that El Camino on gas?"
"It's not great, but it'll do." JohnyG smiled, as if that meant something.
It did, actually. "Big block," Brian stated. "I heard it when you went by us."
JohnyG's eyes smiled. "Yup. Its a 396/375."
"Does it run?"
"It'll do," JohnyG repeated, grinning. But then he looked at them curiously. "Now that I think about it, there were some pretty nice cars in your pack. Which was yours?"
"Green sixty-nine Camaro, up front," Jeff said, keeping his expression neutral. "You went right by me."
JohnyG smiled, and looked like he was remembering."Oh, yeah. Pretty car. Does it run?"
Jeff allowed him a smile. "It'll do."
JohnyG laughed this time. "Oh. Uh huh." The man's smile widened as he looked at Brian. "How about you?"
"Burgundy sixty-eight Super Bee, right inside the Camaro from you as you went by."
JohnyG studied him a moment. "You never told me your name."
"Does your Bee run, Brian?"
JohnyG gave him a grin. "That's pretty direct. Can you beat a twelve-five?"
Brian grinned back. "Yes."
JohnyG looked impressed. "Pretty good for a wedge. What's the best running car in your group?"
Brian grinned, and Jeff gave him a fond push.
"It's a toss up between me and this guy," Brian said, pushing Jeff back. "We're really, really close."
"I can see that," JohnyG said, his eyes sparkling.
For a moment Brian froze internally, wondering just what the other guy meant. He looked at Jeff, who looked like he wanted to laugh, but was too surprised to quite pull it off.
"So I'll be watching out for you two," JohnyG continued, his eyes still smiling. He leaned forward then. "Don't want to end my evening with some Mopar eating me for dessert."
The last part of the man's statement disarmed some of the sudden worry Brian had been feeling, so he just smiled. "Nah. This is a party night, not a racing night."
Gary came back, a red tee-shirt in hand, and went to the other side of the garret and stood a moment, tying off the open sleeves and neck. JohnyG cast him a look, and then smiled at Brian and Jeff. "Duty calls. But I think I'll see you fellas again. Nice meeting both of you."
Jeff gave a little wave, and Brian smiled and nodded.
JohnyG turned and walked over to Gary, took the man by the arm and whispered something into his ear. Gary leaned closer, listening; and then he shot a quick look at Brian and Jeff. Then the two of them went to the pot plants standing on the other side of the garret and started picking.
Brian just watched a moment, feeling confused. He sensed Jeff come to stand right next to him, and then felt the warmth of the other boy's closeness. "Did you feel like he noticed something, Brian?" Jeff whispered.
That was exactly what Brian has been suspecting. He was trying to remember how he had acted when Jeff had arrived - the look he had given Jeff, the smile - everything. Had there been something there that JohnyG had picked up on?
Shit. Brian couldn't help it if the fondness he felt for Jeff wasn't always under wraps. But he had been thinking he had it under control and wasn't broadcasting it all over the place in public. But now - he wasn't sure.
"I don't know," he said softly. Just the fact that Jeff seemed also to have sensed JohnyG's awareness that there was some sort of bond between Brian and Jeff was clue enough that something had really slipped loose.
But then Brian had a thought of his own: what kind of awareness must JohnyG have if he was really able to spot a special connection between Brian and Jeff? He was reminded of the old expression, takes one to know one. Was JohnyG carrying the it?
That was what Brian called the special awareness that gay guys had for each other; how they sensed each other without voicing a single word. The it. Brian and Jeff had both seen the it in one another one night only a few months past - and look where they were now. That this new guy might be like them was a startling and even scary idea. Brian knew that there were other guys like him and Jeff out there, but until now they had not been able to spot a one.
Until now, Brian repeated the thought.
And then he was certain. JohnyG had seen something. And it was because it was something that JohnyG was familiar with himself, something he knew and had shared with someone else.
Some other guy.
Brian watched as the two men moved about the other side of the garret, moving stripped plants aside and harvesting the loaded ones they found behind. As they worked they bumped against each other, and there was a physical ease between them that could not be missed. They were talking together, and their heads would lean close, and they often turned and grinned into each other's eyes. That was a kind of sharing that Brian was familiar with. And that was the icing on the cake.
JohnyG and Gary were together.
Jeff patted Brian's arm. "Those two are gay, Brian."
Brian smiled, and turned to look at Jeff. "I was just thinking the same thing."
Jeff grinned, and bumped his shoulder against Brian's. "You think we look like that when we're together?"
Brian was suddenly sure that they did. And, that they were looking just like that now. He backed away from Jeff a little, but smiled, and nodded. "Uh huh."
Jeff got it, and looked around at their friends, still busy harvesting weed. No one was watching them just then, and Brian was now certain that that was a very good thing. He leaned quickly back towards Jeff, whispered "love you" out of the side of his mouth, and headed back towards the others.
Jeff grinned, and followed.
* * * * * * *
They trucked their bags of weed back to their cars and stashed them in the trunks, and while they were there they picked up fresh beers. Brian was still unhappy with the amount of pot that went into his car - well over a pound, and maybe even over two, with everyone's bags half full. And even so, that they had restrained themselves as much as they had was remarkable. They had scarcely put a dent in what was up in the garret of the haunted house.
Afterwards, they walked around, beers in hand, looking for others of their group - the entire car crowd was here someplace - but they didn't spot anyone. There were just so many people about, and so many places to go, and so much going on everywhere they looked, it was kind of easy to see how the car crowd could disappear among so many faces.
Tim and Deedee said they would see them later, and headed off. Someone had said that there were several kegs of beer in the kitchen of the house, and they wanted to see if they could get some live foam. Ed and Missy and Annabelle were walking ahead, and Brian and Jeff had lagged back a little. They were heading back to the front porch when a large crowd of people crossed between Brian and Jeff and the others.
Brian slowed, waiting for the crowd to pass; and then he felt a hand on his arm, pulling, and he turned to find Jeff's sparkling eyes waiting. "Come on, Brian. Let's get some time for us!"
Brian laughed, and let Jeff pull him away.
They circled around behind the crowd, going in the opposite direction around the house. Off by the cornfields, they could see people running, chasing each other about, laughing and falling down and laughing some more. Stoned. The beam of a flashlight wavered back and forth in another part of the field, as someone there did who-knows-what. The music in the house had grown louder, and Foghat was belting out Smoke On the Water. Brian had already noticed that a lot of oldies were being played - but then, Jed and Carrie were part of an older crowd. In the back of the house somewhere, the guillotine blade once again crashed into its stops.
Gotta go see that, Brian reminded himself.
They passed a bunch of people sprawled in the grass, passing around a bong and a bowl, and Brian thought he saw Colin and Marianne sitting among them. But Jeff pulled him on before he got a good look; and then they were behind the house, and the great old barn and its ancillary buildings were ahead of them.
There were fewer people here, and those that were here were mostly sprawled in the grass, just talking, getting high, and pulling on various bottles of booze. There was another porch here, glued to the back of the house; it was dark, but also showing the faint, moonlight-drawn outlines of people sprawled in chairs. Again, the occasional wink of a lighter told the story of what people were doing. This was a weed party of the first order, no doubt about that. Brian tried to imagine how many pounds of pot had been harvested from the first three or four rows up in the garret before their arrival; certainly more than enough to get hundreds of people stoned. And, he briefly wondered how many more pounds were there yet, waiting to be bagged up and taken home.
But not by them.
They continued on, finding a wide dirt path that led towards the barn out back.
The landscape about them was eerie. The fields of corn looked like rows of dark soldiers standing in ranks, the stalks moving just enough in the light breeze to give them a sense of animate life. The outbuildings ahead of them leaned with age, the roof lines dipping in slight bows from carrying the weight of the sky for three lifetimes. The barn was a dark and misshapen mountain before them, scarcely inviting in form. And the house, now falling behind as they walked, was tall, gaunt and forbidding, the modern glows emanating from its windows seeming milky and wavy through glass made before electric lights were invented.
The moon hung over all of it, casting a soft white light that painted the fields and buildings with a soft shimmer that split the surroundings into sharply defined images of dream-like quality standing out from deep and unrelenting shadows everywhere else about.
It was all absolutely cool as shit.
Brian grinned, feeling a little bit like Dorothy viewing the castle of the wicked witch for the first time. "This place would give Michael Myers the creeps," he said, referring to the masked killer in the movie Halloween.
"It's doing a little number on me, too," Jeff said, agreeing. "Wanna check out the barn?"
Brian gazed at the bulky, black outline of the building before them. "Not really."
Jeff laughed. "Aw - come on. I'll bet, the way that place looks, that there aren't a bunch of stoners hanging out inside." He leaned closer. "We could be alone."
Brian sighed. "You've convinced me." He reached out and squeezed Jeff's arm. "After you."
Jeff's eyes flashed briefly in the moonlight; but he grinned and started off towards the mammoth structure.
These people didn't build anything small, Brian decided, as they neared the hulking form of the barn. It was a traditional style Dutch barn: large, with the tall roof steeply-pitched on one side and ending midway down; while the other side, starting at an equal pitch, "broke" at the point where the roof on the other side ended, and gentled into a roof of lesser pitch that covered an extension of the first floor on that side. It had probably been painted red at one time; but in the fierce moonlight now looked a dirty brown, almost black, and peeling. The large doors on the end facing the boys were still hung, but sagged and no longer met properly.
"I don't want to open one of those big suckers," Jeff said, as they drew to a halt before the double doors - closed, and ill-fitting. "One falls off the hinges it would kill you. Damn thing probably weighs five hundred pounds."
Brian patted Jeff's arm, pointed to the side with the low roof. "Stables on this side, if it's like other barns of this type I've seen. Should be other doors there."
They circled around, and found a smaller door in the other end of the structure. It was pushed to but not latched, and when Brian pulled on the handle it opened with an eerie creak. The interior was pitch black - scarcely inviting - and Brian was not particularly interested in going inside. A smell of decayed hay, grease, and something old and maybe rotted wafted out to them.
Jeff laughed. "Shit. Something dead in there, or what?"
Brian looked about, saw no one, and pushed his lips close to Jeff's ear. "Something...or someone."
Jeff turned and grinned at him, his face just visible in the faded moon glow largely blocked now by the tall roof stretching above them. "Ooh. Trying to scare me?"
Brian looked about a last time, leaned forward and kissed the other boy. Jeff went with it, his hands reaching for Brian's hips and pulling him gently forward. They let the kiss go on, tongues first touching, then exploring, until Brian pulled back. "Wait. We're still out in the open."
Jeff sighed, and moved toward the open door, pulling Brian with him. "Come on."
It was against Brian's better judgment, but he allowed himself to be drawn inside the barn. Jeff turned and pulled the door closed after them. There was a simple wooden latch on the inside, and Jeff raised it and swung it over until the door was secured. "Now we're by ourselves."
Brian felt around in the pocket of his jeans and pulled out a Bic lighter. He thumbed the strike wheel, and a small flame sputtered into being.
They were in a small entry area with a low bench to one side. Beyond, the interior widened, and there were animal stalls on the left, and large racks - empty - on the right. Rusted implements, chains, and wooden devices no longer recognizable in function hung against support beams for the low roof. The center of the barn was taken up by a dark bulk - a storeroom, or maybe support for the lofts and roof above.
"Just like home," Jeff said brightly, grinning at Brian.
"Yeah. If you're Garth Headslasher, the axe murderer," Brian returned, letting go of the gas valve on the lighter. The barn's interior immediately crashed into a stunning darkness. Damn lighters. The things got hot very quickly, always making them the worst form of flashlight you could have.
Brian sensed Jeff move in the dark, then felt his hand on his arm. "Hold up a second and let's see if our eyes adjust."
They stood in silence as a minute, and then two passed. Brian was just about to say it was hopeless when he noticed the beginnings of a soft glow further down from where they were standing.
"See that?" Jeff asked, gripping Brian's arm a little more tightly. "Looks like moonlight to me."
It was. The brief glow from the lighter had revealed nothing but a thin coating of old hay on the dirt floor ahead of them, and the boys began inching their way towards the source of the light. Soon they arrived beneath a small hatch in the roof, thrown open to reveal the stars above. Moonlight by proxy oozed in also, the satellite's glow streaming over the apex of the roof, refracting in the air, and seeping in through the open hatchway as a much reduced glimmer.
Their eyes continued to adjust, and soon Brian could make out his boyfriend's face, close enough to kiss.
So he did. Jeff laughed as Brian stepped closer and encircled him with his arms, and laid his lips gently against the other boy's in a soft kiss. Brian closed his eyes as their faces came together, and went with the moment, shutting down his thoughts and just reveling in their closeness.
There was never enough of that, these days. Jeff's introduction into the Alna car crowd had allowed them to spend a lot more time together; but that time was also spent mostly in the company of their other friends. The time that Brian and Jeff had to themselves was limited by their ability to separate themselves from the others - a difficult task when you were kind of expected to partake in group activities. The members of the car crowd that had girlfriends simply brought them along, ensuring that they had plenty of time together. Brian and Jeff were together, too, but could not act out their desires in front of the others for obvious reasons.
So this moment felt special, and wonderful. They kissed for a while, and fondled each other, allowing the soft touch of skin to recharge batteries depleted by circumstance.
The next time that Brian opened his eyes he was surprised by how well he could see. It was dark, but the glow from the open hatch overhead seemed to have spread out, illuminating enough of the interior that they could make out in some detail the things around them. Brian squinted, looking into the stall next to them.
One of the things inside was a large wooden box built against the side of the stall, which looked just at the right height to sit upon. It had a hinged wooden top - currently opened against the stall wall. Brian disengaged himself from Jeff, entered the stall, and pulled against the top of the box. It resisted at first, then gave, lowering slowly on hinges that had not seen movement in Brian's lifetime. He had to force it the last few inches, until it settled onto the top of the box with a soft thud.
He leaned on the top, found it sturdy, and turned and grinned at Jeff. "Care to sit with me?"
Jeff laughed and came forward, and they sat down and wiggled themselves backwards until they felt the wall of the stall against their backs. Brian put his arm around Jeff's shoulders, the other boy leaned into him, they placed their heads together, and both of them sighed.
"I needed this," Jeff said quietly, reaching over and taking Brian's free hand in both of his.
Brian smiled as Jeff kneaded his palm and fingers. "So did I."
"Brian --" Jeff stopped, seeming to search for words.
Brian looked at him, smiled and rubbed his nose against the other boy's cheek. "Uh huh?"
He felt Jeff smile. "I just wanted to say...how happy I am to be with you."
Brian pulled his head back, and Jeff turned to face him. Their eyes met in the half-light.
"That goes both ways. My life's really been great since I met you." Brian smiled, lifted his hand from among Jeff's, and gently rubbed the other boy's jaw line with his fingertips. "I can't imagine us not being together."
Jeff leaned his forehead against Brian's and closed his eyes. Brian gave a little sigh, and closed his own eyes.
He wasn't really good at saying sweet things - he knew that. But Jeff was able to read the pages of Brian's heart - the ones that underlay his words. The print there was large, and in bold.
Amazing, the things you could share with a look, and a smile, and a touch. Things every bit as meaningful and strong as words, and just as comforting. Maybe even more comforting, because those things addressed the heart directly, without the need for translation from speech. There was more to love - much more - than just saying you had it for someone, or hearing them say they had it for you. Seeing love was what made it so special. In a look, in a smile, and in the eyes.
Especially in the eyes.
Brian had heard the clichés about the eyes being the windows to the heart, or the soul. The fact was, there was an enormity of truth to that. A person's eyes could say more with a glance than a hundred words spoken in the softest of voices. And what Jeff's eyes said to Brian when he looked into them was the grandest message of all.
Brian tightened his arm about Jeff's shoulders, drew him closer, and kissed him. Here was another way the human body had learned to share feelings. A kiss was magic, its warmth and its gentle nature key clues to what lay within the heart.
Brian could hear the night all around them: the faint voices of crickets outside, the fainter voices of partyers over by the house, and the faintest voice of all, the voice of the wind - the cool night air as it moved silently over the land, caressing the barn with invisible fingers, exploring its ancient and forgotten places. The wind came inside with them through a myriad of cracks and crevices: gentle, soft, no harm intended, just passing through. It touched everything and changed nothing, save for its peaceful and relaxing song at the limits of Brian's hearing.
Brian smiled into the kiss he was sharing with Jeff, feeling incredibly aware of the other boy against him. He dropped a hand, laid his splayed fingers against the firm muscles of Jeff's abdomen, and flexed them, giving the other boy a slight tickle that quickly had him grinning, too.
Jeff pulled the lower half of his face back, leaving his forehead against Brian's. "Don't start something you can't finish."
Brian laughed softly. "I just want to touch you."
"Yeah, that's fine. Just no tickling, okay? I'd have to fight back, and it could get noisy."
Brian let his hand slide lower, over Jeff's belt buckle, to what lay below. "Better?"
Jeff gave out a small, satisfied puff of air. "Much."
Brian pushed his face into the side of Jeff's and went back to kissing him while gently feeling him down below. Jeff's legs stirred in response to the touch, opening and closing ever so slightly as he rolled his hips slowly forward and back, pressing his crotch against Brian's hand. Brian could feel the energetic thrust of Jeff's dick as it grew within his pants, until it pressed firmly against the inside of Jeff's jeans, like a captive animal with its face thrust against the bars of its cage.
Brian fumbled with Jeff's belt, and then the fastening of his jeans; and then he was releasing Jeff's dick through the front fold of his boxers. It came out and thrust upwards, and Brian wrapped his fingers about it and began to gently pull and release, while Jeff's breathing picked up into an aroused rattle.
Jeff tilted his head back against the upright slats that separated the stall they were in from the next. The slats were separated - maybe a couple of inches between each one - allowing the night air to pass over them, cool and refreshing. Brian could feel Jeff's warmth, hear the excited undercurrent in his breathing.
Brian slid off the wooden box, settled on his knees between Jeff's legs, leaned forward and took him inside his mouth. Jeff gasped, slid his hips forward a bit, and began breathing through his mouth. Brian worked slowly, smiling around the shaft of Jeff's dick at the little noises that the other boy was making. Jeff had taken to sex like an otter cub to water. Brian had showed him the way out of a lonely life into one shared, and Jeff had never looked back.
Neither had Brian.
Jeff dropped his hands to Brian's head, rubbed his hair, and then his ears while he worked. The touch was light, fond, and relaxing. Minutes passed, as Jeff's rate of breathing slowly increased, and Brian's passion along with it. The night paused, watching; the crickets seeming to have drawn a long breath, and were waiting to release it.
Jeff made a small noise, his hips pressed forward and his thigh muscles tensed; and then Brian felt the warm flow against his tongue that signaled orgasm. He continued to work while Jeff pumped into his mouth, only winding down finally when the other boy gave a big sigh and relaxed. Brian came up then, slowly, using his tongue to clean up as he backed off of Jeff's dick. He squeezed it gently from the base upwards, took the last droplet off the head with the tip of his tongue before it could run down the shaft and escape.
It was an inoffensive taste, mildly pleasing, even; but made very special because if was Jeff.
Brian got off his knees, went to sit back next to Jeff. He put an arm around the other boy's shoulders and pulled him close again, nuzzled Jeff's hair with his cheek while his boyfriend finished descending from his other place.
"That was amazing," Jeff finally said pressing closer to Brian. "You know I have to get even, right?"
Brian smiled. "I wouldn't want it any other way."
Jeff sat up straight, tucked himself inside his underwear and refastened his pants. He was just pulling up his fly when they were both startled by a sudden sound in the night.
Their heads whipped around in unison and they stared through the slats of the stall as one of the big front doors of the barn rattled heavily and then squeaked open. It only opened far enough to allow two shapes to step quickly within; then the door closed with another loud groan and a thud.
Somebody had come inside. Two somebodies, in fact.
Brian put out a hand and laid it on Jeff's shoulder in a warning to be quiet. The brief opening of the door had scarcely disturbed their by now acute night vision, and they could see two shapes moving about carefully just inside the door, lit by the moonlight streaming in through the cracks behind them. They came farther into the interior of the barn, until they reached the first stall. There they stopped - and settled into each other's arms.
Brian couldn't help grinning. Uh huh. He and Jeff weren't the only lovebirds drawn by the idea of the barn's solitude. But that idea no sooner came and went when he realized that it might not be so good for Jeff and himself to be discovered sitting together in the dark like they were. They watched a few moments more, until they were certain that the pair that had come in were making out, and then Brian stood and gave Jeff a brief tug. The other boy got to his feet, and they both began to creep back the way they had come, towards the small door and the outside.
But they had barely taken three steps when the sleeve of Brian's shirt caught on something invisible hanging from one of the beams. He froze immediately, but felt whatever it was swaying on its hook; and then that something decided to jump loose and crash to the ground with a clang that was amazingly loud in the darkness of the barn.
For a second, neither Brian nor Jeff could move. They could have escaped, if they had acted immediately; but the sudden noise had been stunning, and they had both frozen solid.
Brian was conscious of the sound of footsteps coming closer, and he and Jeff both took a step towards the door - and then they were bathed in light as someone thumbed a Bic to flame.
Brian knew the voice immediately. He was shocked at first - but then it all fell into place, and he relaxed. He and Jeff turned, and Brian nodded to the two guys standing ten feet away.
"JohnyG. Nice to see you guys again."
JohnyG and Gary watched them uncertainly. "Just getting here?" JohnyG asked; but then he immediately shook his head. "No. You were facing the wrong way. Leaving, then?"
Brian decided that this could be difficult, or it could be easy, and he wanted easy. "We wanted to give you two some privacy."
Gary looked briefly flustered, but JohnyG only grinned. "Kind of you. You two were done?"
Brian heard Jeff take a breath; but he placed a hand on his boyfriend's wrist, and shook his head. "No. Not quite. But we just figured four was a crowd."
JohnyG frowned, shook his head. "Don't go. Stay. Let's talk."
"What would you like to talk about?"
JohnyG moved closer to Gary, and linked his arm with the other man's. Gary stared down at that new connection for a moment, but then looked up, his expression neutral. "How about we talk about each other? Or, rather, we can talk about us, and you guys can talk about you?"
Brian looked at Jeff, who had a little smile on his face. "What do you say?"
Jeff nodded. "I'll give it a whirl."
Brian felt a small thrill at this. Two other gay guys! Brian's head was suddenly flooded with questions he wanted to ask.
JohnyG winced, and the lighter's flame went out. "Goddamn things. You got a lighter, Gary?"
Another flame burst into being, and Gary held it up so that they could see.
"We had a pretty good spot to sit over there," Brian offered, pointing at the stable slot he and Jeff had just vacated. He started back, Jeff following.
The other two came forward to the stall as Brian and Jeff returned and sat back down on the wooden box. JohnyG and Gary came in, looked about for a place to sit. JohnyG's eyes fastened on the water trough just across from the wooden, box, and he nodded. "Saw something back by the front door we can use. Back in a sec."
He turned, and they saw his lighter erupt into flame. JohnyG went back to the front of the barn, stooped, and pulled something bulky from the hay on the floor. He trapped it under one arm, and started back, dragging a mass behind him.
Gary turned to look down at them. "Fuckin' lighter's getting hot. You guys got one?"
Brian dug his from his pocket and lit it, and Gary let his go out. JohnyG got close enough to enter the soft circle of light from Brian's lighter, and let his own go out. He arrived at the stall's entry and turned in, dragging a wooden plank behind him. It appeared to be a one-by-ten, maybe eight feet in length. It had the gray look of wood that had been outside for a long time, but didn't appear to be rotten.
"Help me, Gary."
Gary went around JohnyG and picked up the other end of the plank, followed as JohnyG brought it into the stall. They turned it, and laid it down across the water trough.
"Instant bench seating," JohnyG said brightly, carefully lowering his weight onto the plank. Gary followed suit, and the pair leaned slowly back against the side of the stall. "Feels like it'll hold," JohnyG finished.
Brian was elated, and grinned. "I'm going to let the lighter go out now that we're all comfortable. Wait a couple of minutes until your eyes adjust, and you'll be able to see." He pointed at the ceiling above them. "There's a little trapdoor there that lets in the moonlight."
Brian let the flame go out. For a moment the barn returned to silence, with only the crickets and other subtle sounds of the night outside for company.
But then JohnyG's voice came from the dark in front of them. "So...how long you guys been together?"
Brian reached out and found Jeff's hand, interlaced his fingers with the other boy's, gave them a gentle squeeze. "Couple of months. How about you?"
"Couple of years," Gary said, and Brian was already starting to be able to see him.
"Couple of great years," JohnyG added; and Brian could see movement in the dark as the two across from them also linked hands.
"More like five, actually," Gary added, laughing. "Since our senior year of school."
"Wow," Brian said, amazed to consider that.
"Do you mind if I ask how old you guys are?" Jeff inquired.
"I'm twenty-two." That came from JohnyG.
"Twenty-one, but only for a few more months," Gary said. "You guys look like you're still in high school."
"We are." Brian laughed. "We're still sixteen yet."
"Wow." JohnyG gave a soft laugh. "I'd have been scared shitless to be out when I was sixteen."
"Oh, we're not out," Brian said. "The only people that know are the two of us. You guys out?"
"Just among our friends," JohnyG admitted. "Some of 'em bailed when we told them, but most of 'em stuck. That's how we know they're our friends."
"Is it different in the city?" Jeff leaned forward a little. "I mean, are there places you guys can go? I've heard about clubs and stuff where gay guys can hang out."
"Not really - not in Albany, anyway." There was a tiny creak of wood as JohnyG crossed his legs. "You can go into New York City and find a few places."
"There's Waterworks," Gary said, a slight note of protest in his voice.
"What's that?" Brian asked.
"Gay club in Albany." Brian could see JohnyG wave his hand. "Opened last year. It's pretty cool - inside. You come out later onto the street, though, and you have to be careful. We've run into parties of gay-bashers a couple of times."
Brian took a startled breath. He'd heard about such activities, but until now they had remained in the realm of rumor and myth. "What'd you do?"
"Kicked some ass," JohnyG said immediately. "We can fight. I'll be damned if I'm letting some stupid rube put his hands on me just because he doesn't like my sexual preference."
"Brian can fight," Jeff volunteered. "He's a boxer at school."
Both JohnyG and Gary were becoming quite visible now, and they both nodded.
"That's good," JohnyG said. "You'll need that someday, Brian. Even if you never come out, there will be people that suspect. And sometimes, that's all it takes. Don't ever let anyone fuck with you because of who you are. Always stand up for yourself. That's all you have in this world sometimes, is who you are."
Brian already understood that. No one was putting their hands on him - not unless he wanted it. And he had been teaching Jeff to defend himself - mostly in the privacy of Jeff's grandparent's driveway, while that elder couple were off traveling the world. Jeff spent much of his time there, camped out in the Winnebago motor home his grandparents kept parked by the shaded garage doors. A home away from home - and a place away from the chance for Jeff to butt heads with his dad.
They had been sparring there, Brian teaching Jeff to guard himself, how to read an opponent's body, and what moves to use in response to what he saw. Jeff was not as fast as Brian, but he was agile and graceful, and he was at the point now where no one was going to take advantage of him without paying something for it.
"I think we both know that," Jeff said, squeezing Brian's hand.
There came a quiet moment, where everyone seemed to be thinking.
"Can I ask you something, JohnyG?" Brian squirmed a little, unsure of how to word his inquiry.
"Sure. Fire away."
"Did you...were you able to see that Jeff and I were...interested in each other?"
Both men across from them laughed.
"Um...well, let's see...that would be a yes."
"What gave it away?" Jeff followed up immediately.
JohnyG sighed. "Man, I gotta tell you guys, you are one cute couple. You two just kind of glow when you're together. When Brian and I were talking, and you walked up, Jeff - Brian's face just lit up like a Christmas tree. And so did yours. Pretty hard to miss."
That was alarming. Brian and Jeff looked at each other a moment, before turning back to the others.
"What can we do about that?" Brian asked.
JohnyG leaned forward. "Brian, you love Jeff?"
Brian nodded. "Yes."
JohnyG's gaze shifted. "You love Brian, Jeff?"
"Then you don't do anything about it," JohnyG said, sitting back. "You can't do anything about it. If you guys love each other, it's gonna be visible."
Gary raised a hand then and pointed at them. "Got a question for you: you didn't seem too surprised to find us doing a little kissing here. So you had already scoped us out, too, right?"
Brian admitted that that was so. "It was in the way you guys acted when you were together. And the fact that JohnyG seemed to notice that Jeff and I were pretty close. I saw that, too."
JohnyG chuckled. "See? I told you. But - listen, you two. I saw that because I know what it looks like. A lot of people would just see that you two are good friends, and that's it. I can tell you now that neither of you are walking around wearing signs that say I'm gay."
"That's good to hear," Jeff said, "because we were a little worried about it."
"Well, don't be." JohnyG sighed. "Fellas - you don't seem any different from your friends. And that's because you're not. Being gay doesn't mean you aren't just like everyone else. It just means you aren't exactly like everyone else, and there's a real difference between those definitions, because people are all different anyway." He reached down and found Gary's hand again, brought it up, and gently kissed the other man's fingers. "Nobody is taking away what we have."
Brian felt a small catch in his throat, and turned and looked at Jeff. Jeff returned the gaze, his eyes steady, small bits of processed moonlight winking in the depths.
Brian leaned forward, and pressed his lips to Jeff's. Jeff sighed, and responded, darting his tongue out, and Brian opened up and let him in, closing his eyes and leaning even closer. They kissed a long time - maybe thirty seconds, as the universe about them spun and danced with an eternity of motion. But all they noticed during that time was each other.
Brian opened his eyes, moved his head, planted another kiss on Jeff's cheek. "I love you," he whispered.
Jeff turned his head, placed his mouth against Brian's ear. "I love you, too."
The moment faded, but would never be forgotten. Brian turned to look again at the others across from them. JohnyG and Gary had their heads leaned together, watching. At the return of Brian's gaze, JohnyG made a small noise. "Now, that was kind of noticeable. I'm beginning to suspect you two might be a little funny."
Brian and Jeff both laughed. "Looked in a mirror lately?" Jeff asked.
Brian smiled, and watched the two men across from them, and realized with a small start - but also a great deal of certainty - that he and Jeff had just made some very special new friends. Birds of a feather.
"So - Brian. Tell me some more about this hot Mopar of yours. It really runs, huh?" JohnyG was leaning forward again, his teeth gleaming in a grin.
Brian didn't really like to brag, but sometimes his pride at the Bee's performance overcame his natural barriers. "I haven't been beaten yet."
"Really? I might just have to run you, then."
Brian couldn't resist grinning. "A twelve-five will not beat me."
JohnyG nodded, his smile widening. "Oh, I know. But I only asked you if you could beat a twelve-five. I never said that that's all my Camino would run."
Jeff immediately bumped his shoulder against Brian's in delight. "Uh oh. That sure sounds like a call-out to me, Bry. And from a Chevy dude, too. I want to see this!"
Brian looked at him, but couldn't help doing it with a smile. "Thought you were on my side."
"Always and forever, Brian. Doesn't mean I don't want to see what this Chevy can do."
Brian returned his gaze to the man seated across from him. "Are you challenging me? I run for a minimum of fifty bucks."
"I can cover that," JohnyG said. "But - no, I'm not calling you out just yet. Let's wait and see a little. Sometimes, with friends, things like this are best left undecided."
Brian and Jeff grinned at each other.
"Oh - are we friends?" Jeff asked, innocently.
JohnyG grunted, and got to his feet. Gary stood right along side of him. "I'd like to be," JohnyG said. "Aren't a whole lot of guys around to share the things we like with, you know? Cars, and parties, and...stuff."
Brian and Jeff rose as well. Brian stuck out his hand. "Make it official?"
They all shook hands again, and that was how Brian and Jeff went from being alone with a secret, to living with a secret shared.